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Museum Of Fine Arts In Boston Apologizes To Students Subjected To Racism

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has apologized to a group of minority middle school students who say they were subjected to racism by staff and some other patrons during a field trip.

In a letter posted on its website Wednesday, the MFA Leadership Team apologized to the students and staff at the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester for "a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome."

Teacher Marvelyn Lamy said there were 26 seventh graders on the field trip, all students of color. "They were all black and brown," she said.

She said they experienced a string of disturbing racist incidents, including from a museum employee. "Before we even entered the museum, the lady was explaining to us the rules, so she said, 'No food, no drink, no watermelon.'"

Helen Y. Davis leadership Academy teachers Marvelyn Lamy and Taliana Jeune (WBZ-TV)

One of the interactive displays involved dancing. "There was a patron that said to one of our students that it's a shame that she's not learning and that she's preparing for stripping and things of that sort," Lamy said.

The say the last incident was the most hurtful. "This lady walks in and she's like, 'these effing black kids are in the way,'" Lamy said.

Another teacher, Taliana Jeune, says when they told the staff about it, they felt brushed off. "She should have been removed from the museum right then and there," Jeuene said. "If I had reacted any kind of way, I know I would have been removed from the museum."

"Every single exhibit we went through, we were being followed," said Lamy. "The security guard is literally just in our face."

Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (WBZ-TV)

Thursday afternoon, museum executives went to the Helen Y. Davis leadership Academy to hear for themselves. "All of us were sorry to hear about the experience these young people had at the museum, and we know we should and will be better than that," said Katie Getchell, the MFA's Deputy Director. "We're in the process of rolling out some new training next month, so we're figuring out how to expedite that and maybe bolster it with more."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the comments were "incredibly disturbing."

"That's not who we should be, and that's not who we are as a city," Walsh tweeted.

MFA managers invited the students back for what they promised would be a better experience. "I will never set foot in that museum," said Lamy.

The trip was supposed to be a reward for students who earned good grades and exhibited good behavior throughout the year. They say they chose the MFA hoping to learn about different cultures.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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